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Part one in a series from Teen Suicide: The “Why” Behind America’s Suicide Epidemic
For more than two decades, I have worked in the trenches of teen life as a youth motivator and mental health advocate. I am also a suicide prevention and crisis intervention expert. I can’t count the number of teen suicides I have been through with parents and families who have lost a child to what I call “the forever decision.” I have met students who wished they didn’t have to bear the unspeakable anguish of losing a friend to suicide. It’s staggering. I am also a man who proudly lives with mental illness. I am diagnosed with major depression, bipolar II disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Because of my work and my mental health challenges, I feel that I am in the unique position to help others by telling my story and utilizing my strengths as a public speaker and motivator to break the stigma attached to mental illness and teen suicide. Some of you might know me from my Amazon bestseller, BOOM: One Word to Instantly Inspire Action, Deliver Rewards, and Positively Affect Your Life Every Day! That book was a joy to write, and it’s packed with principles to motivate and inspire readers of all ages. I am happy that folks find it helpful, and I am grateful. But because mental health is forefront in my life and work, I recently put together a nonprofit, The Jeff Yalden Foundation. Our mission is simple and direct: to prevent suicide, improve community mental health, and shatter the stigma of mental health by initiating a positive movement to speak up and reach out. No man is an island. I don’t want to be a “voice crying out in the wilderness.” We are all about expanding the conversation about mental health and teen suicide. I believe it is imperative that we all get comfortable with being uncomfortable and talking about these things. Because teen suicide has reached epidemic proportions in recent years, it weighed on my heart to get to work on my latest book, Teen Suicide: The “Why” Behind America’s Suicide Epidemic. It was a tough book to write, but I felt that it would serve as an ideal starting point for folks to get a grasp of the severity and scope of teen suicide in this country. It also lays out the signs and red flags, and what to do if you know a young person is at risk. This blog post is the first in a series distilled from my book – yet another way to keep the conversation going. WHAT IS MENTAL ILLNESS? The National Institute of Mental Health [NIMH] states that nearly one in five U.S. adults lives with a mental illness. In a room full of people, you can count on the fact that all of them are going through some type of challenge, and some of them are struggling with a mental health issue. But mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s a medical problem, like diabetes or heart disease – and it’s high time that everybody realizes this. The short explanation is that mental illnesses are health conditions involving changes in thinking, emotion, or behavior. Mental illness is common. In most cases, it’s treatable. The vast majority of individuals with mental illness continue to function in their daily lives. You might find this definition from the NIMH useful: “Serious mental illness is defined as a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder [excluding developmental and substance use disorders] resulting in serious functional impairment, which substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life disorders.” TEENS DON’T WANT TO DIE Most teens that attempt suicide because they may have depression, bipolar disorder, or borderline personality disorder. These disorders amplify the pain a teen may feel. It is because of this that every suicidal teen should be seen by a medical professional immediately and that all threats and/or red flags be taken very seriously.
It is my position that teens don’t want to die. They attempt or succeed in suicide in order to escape bad situations and/or painful, overwhelming, and emotionally-charged thoughts and feelings. Remember: Our young people live in the here-and-the-now and lack the coping and problem-solving skills they need to see a situation clearly. To them, perhaps a temporary situation in their lives is seen as the end of the world. I am a huge advocate for therapy and counseling with a trusted adult – a professional who specializes in mental health and can guide a young person through suicidal thoughts and teach them how to process and respond to their thoughts and feelings. YOUNG PEOPLE: If you are finding ways to justify taking your life, a simply switch in thought patterns can reduce the negativity and help you build better coping skills. If you are afraid of going to see a counselor, let me ask you this: What’s the downside? You may say the stigma is the downside – but this is your life and you want to be healthy and successful. Do not be ashamed about seeking and asking for help. A tough person is one who has the courage to ask for help. It’s OK to ask for help. It’s ALWAYS OK to ask for help. The more we talk about mental illness and teen suicide, the greater the awareness, acceptance, and resources become for our communities. To find out more about The Jeff Yalden Foundation, go HERE. ORDER your copy of Teen Suicide: The “Why” Behind America’s Suicide Epidemic.